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Wholesale Observations: St. Patrick’s Day, Part 2
Rafe Semmes
Rafe Semmes

I was born and reared in Savannah, GA, the oldest of five sons. My parents, oddly, were both the youngest of three siblings, born in the 1920’s. Both were born in cities different from where they grew up; and moved to that city at five years old each. They met in college, and came to Savannah after my dad graduated.

I was raised in the Catholic faith, as was probably half of Savannah, in those days, which meant going to church every Sunday, plus Holy Days of Obligation, and being educated mostly in Catholic schools, through the tenth grade. My first two years of high school were spent at Benedictine’s spacious new campus on the southside, off Waters Avenue.

My parents then transferred me to (the original) Savannah High School on Washington Avenue, a much bigger school, and a much better fit for me personally, at the start of my junior year. I mostly endured BC, but thrived at SHS, for many reasons.

BC at the time was a mandatory ROTC school, which meant that, in addition to our regular academic classes, there was also the ROTC component. We all wore the military uniforms, had morning formations and inspections (making sure our brass and black shoes were sufficiently polished), and then had afternoon drill, where we learned to march and move in military formations and carried the (heavy, to a 15-year-old boy) M-16 rifle.

The entire BC student body also got to march in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, with those heavy M-16’s, as I recall.

There were four companies of two platoons each, with four squads per platoon, plus the four-member color guard carrying flags, and our marching band, probably equal to another company in size. So there were a lot of us, and we were of course expected to look sharp and march sharp.

The first year I was there, that March day was damp, cloudy, and cold, and the parade seemed to go on forever! I was so glad when it was over. The next year, the weather was better, but those M-16’s were still just as heavy. But two events stood out, that second year, that I have never forgotten, and laughed about many times.

Rafe Semmes is a proud graduate of Savannah High School and the University of Georgia.

He and his wife live in eastern Liberty County with their menagerie of rescue cats, and are long-time Rotarians. He writes on a variety of topics, and may be reached at

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